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Oil Spill Food Poisoning Concerns Lead to Federal Seafood Safety Plan
Published: June 15th, 2010
Several federal agencies are working together to make certain that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico that may have oil contamination does not reach kitchen tables.
The FDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a joint news release on June 14 to announce that they are working together to close fisheries, increase inspections and have laid down strict protocols for re-opening facilities that were closed due to the oil spill. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also monitoring the gulf coast states, along with state and local health departments, for any signs of oil spill-related illnesses from contaminated seafood or from contact with the spill itself.
The gulf coast oil spill started shortly after the April 20 explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon sent the oil drilling rig to the bottom of the Gulf and unleashed an oil spill in the Gulf that could be the worst environmental disaster in history. British Petroleum (BP), which leased the oil rig, is siphoning some of the flow into oil tankers after weeks of failing to cap the well, resulting in a massive oil slick that is impacting several states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
The FDA and NOAA have stated that the main line of defense against oil spill food poisoning has been closing fisheries in the spill¡¯s path. The closures began May 2, with the agencies closing every fishery along the spill¡¯s projected path. The closures include fisheries known to be affected by the spill, those likely to be impacted in the next 48 to 72 hours, and those within a five-nautical-mile buffer around the known location of the spill.
NOAA has also created and deployed a seafood sampling and inspection plan for commercial and recreational sea food sources nearby, but outside of the affected area of the oil spill. The inspections are looking for signs that contamination has spread beyond the known affected area.
FDA and NOAA are currently developing re-opening protocols that will allow NOAA to re-open fisheries only after they have passed stringent FDA inspection protocols to ensure there is no risk of contamination.
Last week the CDC announced that it is monitoring for health problems from the oil spill among clean-up workers and also surveying those workers to ensure that they are all properly educated about potential health risks. CDC is also using the National Poison Data System (NPDS) and BioSense to monitor for increases in a number of respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, eye and skin-related symptoms that could be signs of oil spill health side effects. Symptoms could include:
Asthma exacerbation
Chest pains
Eye irritation
Those symptoms, however, are limited to exposure to fumes or physical contact with the oil spills. No list of symptoms has been released for oil spill food poisoning, and no reports of such illnesses have been announced.
About 100 wrongful death, business interruption and environmental tort lawsuits over the gulf oil spill have been filed against British Petroleum (BP), Transocean Ltd., Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. and Cameron International Corp. since the the oil spill began. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to look at the oil spill lawsuits in July. They will decide whether the cases should be consolidated in one court to prevent duplicative discovery and inconsistent rulings. The Panel will also determine where the oil spill lawsuits should be centralized if an MDL is formed.

Should restaurants make health inspection grades visible.
By Greg Latshaw, USA TODAY
It's a Saturday night in Washington, the Capitol rotunda is in view, and you're walking along the avenue, trying to decide where to eat.
Posted outside restaurants' windows are menus, Zagat ratings and clippings of local newspaper reviews. What's missing, says D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, is information about the restaurants' sanitary conditions.
Cheh supports requiring restaurants to display a letter grade based on their most recent health department inspection. She says that now, residents must file public records requests for details on restaurant inspections.
"Surely the nation's capital, with all its restaurants, you'd think we'd be a little more progressive," she says.
More transparency
A growing number of health departments across the USA are initiating programs aimed at improving the transparency of restaurant inspections, says Robert Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. He says many health departments are putting information online, and others are placing scores . in the form of letter grades, numerical scores or color-coded decals . in plain sight at restaurants.
"It really makes the public part of the inspection workforce," he says.
Every year, about 1,000 outbreaks of food-borne illness occur in the USA, about half of which involve meals from a restaurant setting, says Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the division of food-borne, water-borne and environmental diseases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health inspections are designed to identify food safety violations, everything from meat stored at improper temperatures to cockroaches in the kitchen.
A study in June's Journal of Food Protection suggests cross-contamination violations . which can lead to illnesses . may be more widespread than previously thought, and they may occur more frequently during peak hours.
Researchers from North Carolina State University used video cameras to monitor 47 food handlers at eight volunteering kitchens and found that the workers committed an average of one cross-contamination violation an hour.
"It really changes how we think about training," says Ben Chapman, the lead author of the study and assistant professor and food safety specialist in the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences at NCSU. Researchers from Kansas State University and the University of Guelph in Ontario co-wrote the study.
With more than 150 million meals served at food service locations every day, food safety is a top priority of the restaurant industry, says Scott DeFife, executive vice president for policy and government affairs for the National Restaurant Association. He says all 50 states should adopt the Food and Drug Administration's Model Food Code so they're following a standardized inspection form.
"The association supports transparency and providing customers with information," DeFife says. "However, we believe it should be provided in a way that accurately reflects an operation's food safety standards, is up to date and is useful to restaurant customers."
Moving toward greater public disclosure isn't always easy. Wicomico County, Md., has explored putting records online for several years, but budget cuts to the health department, combined with opposition from restaurant owners, have made that an elusive goal, says Stuart White, supervisor of community health in the environmental health division.
Some local restaurant owners worry about the effect on their reputations. "Should the general public sum up a view based on one inspection." asks Rob Mulford, owner of the Market Street Inn, a AAA three-diamond-rated restaurant in Salisbury, Md., that closes two days a year for comprehensive cleanings.
"If something goes wrong, should nine, 10 years of hard work be wiped out because of one health inspection."
Advances in technology . such as electronic tablets that allow inspectors to finish the report on site . are helping health departments digitize inspection records. But the nation's local health departments are contending with a shrinking workforce. Layoffs and attrition have reduced the size of the industry's 155,000 employees by 15% from January 2008 to December 2009, Pestronk says.
Budgets challenged
"Like anything else, putting out this info requires additional resources, and health departments as a whole are facing significant budget limitations," says Clifford Mitchell, acting assistant director of environmental health and food protection program for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Cheh says the Washington, D.C., Department of Health may put restaurant inspection records online within the next several months. In February 2009, she co-introduced legislation that would require restaurants to post letter grades in clear view and the health department to post records from the inspection online.
Every effort should be made to fully disclose inspection results, says Sarah Klein, a staff attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest: "Why should we have to look to find safety information at restaurants."

More Foreign Seafood Presents Safety Challenge
by Dan Flynn | Jun 22, 2010

Americans have an appetite for imported seafood. The U.S. consumed 2.395 billion pounds of foreign seafood last year. That was about 85 percent of the market.
Eating more fish is supposed to be more healthy, but some question how safe foreign seafood can be when only about 1 percent of those imports are inspected at the border.
Loss of seafood production in the U.S. waters of the Gulf of Mexico from the two-month old BP oil spill will probably mean even more foreign fish landing on American dinner plates.
Past and present U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials have long said the way to make sure foreign seafood imports are safe is not to delay more of them at the border but to do more inspections at foreign processing facilities to hold them to our standards.
FDA is doing more and more of that. A Feb. 16 warning letter released this week to the Songkla Canning Public Company Limited in Muang, Thailand provides one such example.
FDA inspected the Thai seafood processing facility last Dec. 7-9, finding the company had "serious violations" of U.S. seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations. No seafood HACCP plan means the fish or fishery products from the facility are considered "adulterated" under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
"Accordingly, your canned tuna, pouch packed tuna and pasteurized crab meat are adulterated, in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health," the warning letter said.
The warning letter makes it clear that the Thai seafood processor must come into compliance with FDA standards or it will not be able to export its products to the U.S. Facilities not producing product in compliance with those standards are subjects of FDA Import Alerts, red-flagging foreign firms that are not in compliance.
The canned tuna, pouch packed tuna, and pasteurized crabmeat processor in Thailand was given 30 days to respond to FDA concerns. The agency provided a detailed list of its requirements.
Among them were:
-The need "to ensure that the time and temperature exposures during these cumulative periods are properly controlled to prevent the formation of scombrotoxin (histamine) or other heat stable toxins, such as from Staphylococcus aureus. These steps include, for example, storage of raw fresh fish, thawing of frozen fish, butchering, pre-cooking to prepare the fish for meat removal (i.e., not a pathogen reduction cook), cooling of pre-cooked fish, deskinning, cleaning (removal of meat), flaking/chopping, metal detecting, defect sorting, packing, and other processing steps after receiving and prior to when the product enters the retorts."
-The company's "HACCP plans for canned tuna and pouch packed tuna list critical limits at the "Receiving" critical control point for frozen or fresh fish that are not adequate to control the hazard of scombrotoxin formation."
-"Pasteurized crab meat HACCP plan lists inadequate critical limits at the "Pasteurization" critical control point to control the hazard listed as "Pathogen Survival" identified specifically as Clostridium botulinum.
-"Consequently, the critical time and temperature limits necessary to control the hazard of Clostridium botulinum growth and toxin formation at each critical control point are required as part of your HACCP plan."
FDA said the Thai company also needed to give attention to its low-acid canning operation. Specifically, it urged attention to seam specifications to achieve a proper hermetic seal.
While 45 import alerts involving Thailand, many involving seafood products, are currently on file, none yet involve Songkla Canning. Yet the issues raised in the February letter have not been "closed out" either.

Q&A With Temple Grandin
by Helena Bottemiller | Jun 22, 2010

As part of our ongoing expert Q&A series, a conversation with world-renowned livestock expert Temple Grandin on humane handling, small vs. big, transparency, and the future of agriculture
Dr. Temple Grandin has been a thought leader in both the animal agriculture and autism realms for decades. Grandin, the world's most well-known autistic person, is a New York Times best-selling author, a professor of animal science, a consultant to the leading food companies, and a noted speaker on animal behavior and autism. She attributes her success in improving humane handling systems for livestock, systems that now impact around half the cattle in North America, to her different way of thinking. "As a person with autism, it is easy for me to understand how animals think because my thinking processes are like an animal's," she says. Earlier this year, Grandin was named a "Hero" among TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people and was the subject of the HBO film Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes.
Food Safety News recently sat down with Dr. Grandin to discuss meat production and humane handling.
Part I
Q: How does animal stress and humane handling affect meat quality and safety. Ethics aside, why should consumers be concerned about humane handling.
A: In pigs, if you stress them with prods and things five minutes before slaughter you get pale, soft meat--it's watery, soft meat, yucky pork--that's real bad.
With cattle, in the last five minutes you can get tough meat. In the last five minutes before slaughter you can really make a mess. If you get animals all excited before slaughter they [defecate] more, if they've got bad E. coli in them, that can get out and be spread around.
Q: Is line speed an important factor.
A: Everyone thinks high line speed is bad. Actually, high line speed plants work really well if they're set up right. What's bad is overloaded equipment that's understaffed, that's what's bad. That can happen at a small plant, that can happen at a big plant. One of the worst plants I ever saw for understaffed and overloaded equipment, it went from 26 an hour to 35 an hour. They were slammin' gates all over, they got their inspection suspended. This little plant worked fine at 26 an hour (and it was one of the niche markets it sold into)... You can have a big plant that might work like a dream at 300 an hour and then you push it to 330 and it's horrible. If it's set up right, high speed plants can work great.
Q: You've spent a lot of time out in the field, what portion of slaughterhouses are doing it right.
A: Ironically, most of the big plants that are audited by McDonald's and places like that, I'm not going to say they're perfect, but an atrocity like this last video with the pitchforks in the udder, you're not going to see anything like that.
What I get concerned about is the little local places that are not being audited. I've been involved in working with and training auditors for big plants and small plants...for the big plants the audits started 10 years ago, in 1999. The little plants, there was a five year delay for them. The big plants were just horrible when we first started and then when we walked into some of these little plants they were just as horrid. The thing I have found about little plants, they're either really good or really bad. There's like no middle road. It's so dependent on the attitude of the manager.
Q: You certainly hear the argument that small, local meat producers are generally better...
A: Not necessarily. The thing that's important is whether people care. That is important. I've done a lot of work with the big companies, and I can't be naming names, but I've done construction work for all of them. There were some that were like the BP of the meat industry--rushed, sloppy, cutting corners on methods, cutting corners on materials, and the way they treat animals was atrociously bad--and then you've got the companies that don't do those things. It gets down to the top person caring. It's the attitude. It's gotta start with top management.
It's gotta start with the top person caring. I've watched some of these corporate eyes get opened. I remember the day when one of the McDonald's executives saw a half-dead cow go into his product. Man, he lost it. Like 'whoa - there's some things we've got to fix.' You've got to get customers out of the office and get them seeing stuff. If people care it makes all the difference.
It's the big plants that started [paying attention to humane handling], let's give them some credit where they need some credit. The big plants started the animal welfare conference, we've had that welfare conference for over 10 years. They've become more and more conscious of this. Cargill has been a real leader, they've put video auditing in all their pork and beef plants. They've been a total leader in that. It's audited over the internet by third party auditors. Some of the other companies are starting to do it for food safety, for critical testing, and dressing procedures.
Q: As a consumer, how do you tell the difference between the good and the bad.
A: I'm at the point right now where I want to put it all on live video on the internet. I'm at the point where I want the industry to take all the mystery out of things. Some of the companies have video auditing and that's good... but put a live feed out to the internet so anybody can look. What have we got to hide. The only things that I think are really proprietary are the customer lists and maybe the boxes where they pack product. We have got to take the mystery out of it...
I've been going to cattlemen's meetings and saying 'let's put tours of ranches up on YouTube.' We need to be showing what we do. I've got pictures and video of cattle and pigs dying up on the internet now on YouTube.

Q&A With Temple Grandin Part II
by Helena Bottemiller | Jun 23, 2010

As part of our ongoing expert Q&A series, a conversation with world-renowned livestock expert Temple Grandin on humane handling, small vs. big, transparency, and the future of agriculture
Temple Grandin has been a thought leader in both the animal agriculture and autism realms for decades. Grandin, the world's most well-known autistic person, is a New York Times best-selling author, a professor of animal science, a consultant to the leading food companies, and a noted speaker on animal behavior and autism. She attributes her success in improving humane handling systems for livestock, systems that now impact around half the cattle in North America, to her different way of thinking. "As a person with autism, it is easy for me to understand how animals think because my thinking processes are like an animal's," she says. Earlier this year, Grandin was named a "Hero" among TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people and was the subject of the HBO film Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes.
Food Safety News recently sat down with Grandin to discuss meat production and humane handling.
Part I of the interview, discussing big vs. small ag and the need for more transparency in the meat system appeared in Food Safety News yesterday.
Part II
Q: So much of what we do see are the really bad examples, the undercover whistleblower stuff...the veal in Vermont, the recent dairy incident...
A: That was horrible, horrible, just horrible. That guy [from Conklin dairy] also has felony charges on an illegal gun.
Q: Are these isolated incidents.
A: Most places are not doing stuff that horrible. To say that every dairy treats their animals that way, no, that's wrong, they're not. But on the other hand, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle, between the animal rights advocates that say everything is an atrocity, to the industry who says everything's just fine. I've worked in a lot of places. It's somewhere in the middle. It's a constant battle. You can't under staff and overwork. Tired people are more likely to get angry, and so are overworked people.
Q: What about high turnover.
A: Well, if you treat the people decently you want have such high turnover. I was horrified to find out about a dairy that was working its Mexican employees 12 hours a day and not giving them lunch breaks, that's just terrible. I think we have to have more customers getting involved. I just read something about people jumping off the roof in some factory in China. Well, whosever electronics electronic doo-dads are getting made in that factory, those companies need to go into those factories and straighten this out. That's unacceptable. Customers drive change.
Q: Knowing what you know, are there certain things that you avoid, do you understand the difficulties consumers face trying to make sense of all of this.
A: I'm very concerned about what I call biological system overload. We're pushing chickens, turkeys, dairy cows, and other animals to where they're falling apart. We're seeing lameness and abnormal growth problems. Beef cattle still live outside so we haven't messed them up.
Q: Do you think that affects us.
A: No, no I don't think it affects us. A lot of people think chickens are fed hormones and they're not. The chickens just grow really fast because they've been bred to grow really fast. It's genetics. Same thing with turkeys.
Q: Do you have confidence in the way we raise, slaughter, and process meat.
A: When it's done right, yeah. Things have to be done right. You've got to figure out critical control points are really important, and you've got to do it right.
Q: Do you take issue with the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed.
A: The thing that's not known, when it comes to antibiotics in feed, is that a lot of it comes out the backside of the animal. What does that do. It's a massive, uncontrolled experiment. I'm not worried about eating the meat, that doesn't worry me. The meat's fine. With the antibiotics you've got science and nature...I'm reading a ton of red flags. I'm going to call them red flags at this point.
Let's look real sensible into the future... There's things that big Ag can learn from organic. In the future, there will be a new large scale type of commercial agriculture. We're still going to use chemicals, we're still going to use antibiotics, but we're going to use a whole lot less of them. We're going to adopt some of these crop rotation practices, get rid of some of the monoculture and kind of make a new large-scale commercial that will be economical. But, as long as corn and oil are cheap, this no economic incentive to change.
Somewhere in the middle I can see some kind of a hybrid thing forming. Right now, big Ag looks at Michael Pollan as being kind of evil. Well I say, 'there's a lot of things that Michael Pollan and you agree on, have you ever actually read the book.'

Further health fears linked to bisphenol A
By Rory Harrington, 23-Jun-2010
Two new studies have raised further questions marks over the health effects of bisphenol A (BPA), according to the Endocrine Society in the United States.
The international research body said studies to be presented at its annual meeting next week will document concerns linking exposure to BPA to possible harmful effect of the development of male testicular function and that women with the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may be more vulnerable to exposure to the chemical.
Testicular function
In their study of male rats, Benson Akingbemi et al said their findings showed harmful effects of BPA at the cellular level, specifically in Leydig cells. These cells in the testis secrete testosterone, the main sex hormone that supports male fertility. After birth, Leydig cells gradually acquire the capacity for testosterone secretion.
The researchers found that process of testosterone secretion fell in male offspring of female rats that received BPA during pregnancy and while nursing. The mothers were fed BPA in olive oil at a dose of either 2.5 or 25 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight . less than the 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight FDA daily upper limit of safe exposure.
A control group of pregnant rats received olive oil without BPA. Male offspring, after weaning at 21 days of age, received no further exposure to the substance.
The scientists studied the development of Leydig cells in male offspring and the capacity for testosterone secretion was assessed at 21, 35 and 90 days of age. The amount of testosterone secreted per Leydig cell was found to be much lower in male offspring after early-life exposure to BPA than in offspring from control unexposed animals, they said
"We are seeing changes in the testis function of rats after exposure to BPA levels that are lower than what the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency consider safe exposure levels for humans," said Akingbemi. "This is concerning because large segments of the population, including pregnant and nursing mothers, are exposed to this chemical."
Polycystic ovary syndrome
This study found that BPA is elevated and associated with higher levels of male hormones in the blood of women with PCOS compared with healthy women. These findings held true for both lean and obese women with PCOS, said Evanthia Diamanti-Kandarakis, study co-author and professor at the University of Athens Medical School in Greece.
"Women with the polycystic ovary syndrome should be alert regarding this environmental contaminant's potential adverse effects on reproductive aspects of their health problem," she said.
The researchers divided 71 women with PCOS and 100 healthy female control subjects into subgroups matched by age and body composition (obese or lean). Blood levels of BPA, compared with those of controls, were nearly 60 percent higher in lean women with PCOS and more than 30 percent higher in obese women with the syndrome.
They also discovered that as the BPA blood level increased, so did the concentrations of the male sex hormone testosterone and androstenedione, a steroid hormone that converts to testosterone.
Diamanti-Kandarakis said women with PCOS may want to limit their exposure to BPA but stressed that no research had yet proved that reducing BPA in PCOS would have beneficial effects.

If I were a CEO of a food manufacturing company at the beginning of a food poisoning outbreak what would I do.
Imagine that the phone call comes or an email pops into your inbox--"Sir, we have been contacted by (you pick: CDC, FDA, USDA, or a state or local health department), and they say your product (lettuce, raw milk, or a frozen dinner) has been linked to illnesses. What do we do."
So, what do you do.
After being involved in every major (and a few minor) food poisoning outbreaks since the Jack in the Box outbreak of 1993, I have seen it all. I have seen good CEOs act badly and make their and their company's problems worse and I have seen bad CEOs handle the outbreak with such aplomb that they become associated with both food safety and good PR. So, what do you do.
Of course, it is always best to avoid the outbreak to begin with. When I have spoken to CEOs or their Boards--generally, pre-outbreak and pre-lawsuit--I always pitch them on "why it is a bad idea to poison your customers." Putting safe food as the primary goal--yes, alas, even before profits--will (absent an error) give you a very, very good chance of never seeing me on the other side of a courtroom.
But, what if despite your best efforts, or what if you simply did not care, and an outbreak happens, what do you do.
First, have a pre-existing relationship with the folks that regulate you. If someone holds your business in the palm of his or her hand, you should at least be on a first name basis. No, I am not suggesting that you can influence your way out of the outbreak, but knowing who is telling you that your company has a problem allows you the ability to get and understand the facts. Do regulators and their investigators make mistakes. Perhaps, but not very often and not often enough to waste time arguing that your company did not poison customers.
Second, stop production of the implicated product and initiate a recall of all products at risk immediately. This procedure should have been practiced, and practiced, and practiced before. All possibly implicated suppliers should be alerted and all retailers should be offered assistance. Consumers need to be engaged too. The goal now is to get poisoned product out of the marketplace and certainly out of the homes of consumers.
Third, launch your own investigation with two approaches, and at the same time. Are the regulators correct. And, what went wrong. Tell everyone to save all documents (you have to anyway). The goal here is to get things right. If it really is not your product, what has happened is bad, but survivable. If it really was your product, then learning what happened helps make sure it is likely to never happen again. More than anything, be transparent. Tell everyone what you find--good or bad.
Fourth, assuming that the outbreak is in fact your fault, publicly admit it. If it is not your fault, then fight it. However, pretending that you are innocent when you are actually at fault will get you nowhere. Asking for forgiveness is not a bad thing when you have something to be forgiven for. Saying you are sorry is not wrong when you are in fact wrong.
Fifth, do not blame your customers. If you food has a pathogen it is not your customers responsibility to handle it like it will likely kill them or a member of their family. Hoping that the consumer will fix your mistake takes your eye off of avoiding the mistake in the first place.
Sixth, reach out to your customers and consumers who have been harmed. Offering to pay legitimate losses will save money and your company's reputation in the long run.
Seventh, teach all what you have learned. Do not hide what you have learned. Make your knowledge freely available so we all limit the risk that something similar will happen again.
Yes, you can do all of the above and still get sued. And, I might be the one to sue you. Yet, companies who have followed the above find their passage through an outbreak, recall, and litigation temporary. The companies that struggle for unfounded reasons will seldom exist in the long run, or they will simply pay me more money.
Posted on June 24, 2010 by Bill Marler

Consumers as kill step
Posted on June 24, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
The folks over at have created the following table showing outbreaks involving pre-cooked microwavable chicken products. Clearly, the first and best line of defense in outbreaks involving pre-cooked products is for the product manufacturer to not use contaminated ingredients, or ensure that the harmful bacteria are fully eradicated by cooking it thoroughly.
In his expose article on the topic back in 2009, in response to the ConAgra pot pie Salmonella outbreak, Michael Moss of the New York Times reported that:

Federal regulators have pushed companies to beef up their cooking instructions with the detailed ¡°food safety¡± guides. But the response has been varied, as a review of packaging showed. Some manufacturers fail to list explicit instructions; others include abbreviated guidelines on the side of their boxes in tiny print. A Hungry-Man pot pie asks consumers to ensure that the pie reaches a temperature that is 11 degrees short of the government-established threshold for killing pathogens. Questioned about the discrepancy, Blackstone acknowledged it was using an older industry standard that it would rectify when it printed new cartons
Some food safety experts say they do not think the solution should rest with the consumer. Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said companies like ConAgra were asking too much. ¡°I do not believe that it is fair to put this responsibility on the back of the consumer, when there is substantial confusion about what it means to prepare that product,¡± Dr. Osterholm said.
In fact, the Times article continued:
attempts by The New York Times to follow the directions on several brands of frozen meals, including ConAgra¡¯s Banquet pot pies, failed to achieve the required 165-degree temperature. Some spots in the pies heated to only 140 degrees even as parts of the crust were burnt.
A ConAgra consumer hotline operator said the claims by microwave-oven manufacturers about their wattage power could not be trusted, and that any pies not heated enough should not be eaten. ¡°We definitely want it to reach that 165-degree temperature,¡± she said. ¡°It¡¯s a safety issue.¡±
In 2007, the U.S.D.A.¡¯s inspection of the ConAgra plant in Missouri found records that showed some of ConAgra¡¯s own testing of its directions failed to achieve ¡°an adequate lethality¡± in several products, including its Chicken Fried Beef Steak dinner. Even 18 minutes in a large conventional oven brought the pudding in a Kid Cuisine Chicken Breast Nuggets meal to only 142 degrees, the federal agency found.
Given the difficulty that consumers, and the industry, have in using cooking as a final kill step, the better solution is for pathogens that can kill people to not be in frozen food products in the first place.


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